Harold López-Nussa: From Havana To Hawaii


We’ll have to check the history books, but Harold López-Nussa might be the first Cuban Jazz pianist to ever perform on the Big Island. He’s playing two Big Island shows including one at the Kahilu Theatre next Saturday, October 20, at 7PM. It’s a concert you won’t want to miss.

Mr. López-Nussa is currently on a 36-city tour, and I caught up with him while he was on a train from Tokyo to Osaka, Japan. He’s supporting the album Un Día Cualquiera (“A Typical Day”), his second release for Mack Avenue Records. He’s joined by his brother Ruy on drums, and bassist Gaston Joya. In his review for DOWNBEAT Magazine, J.D. Considine wrote, “The tunes are mostly originals here, and the writing frequently reflects the pianist’s conservatory background… If this is a ‘typical day’ for these guys, expect to hear a lot more from López-Nussa.”

Is this your first visit to the Big Island?

Yes! I’m very excited to be playing there.

What would you like for the Big Island audience to get out of your debut?

I’d just like to share with them my music, and my environment from Havana, Cuba. This is like a dream come true. I never thought I’d be playing Hawaii. This is crazy. Personally, I didn’t know of any other Cuban musicians that have played Hawaii. This will be a great experience!

Tell me about the new album Un Dia Cualquiera, and your 36-city tour?

 The album features my trio that I put together in Havana more than ten years ago. On drums is my brother, who has been playing with me my entire life. On bass is Gaston Joya. I always say he is a brother from a different mother. We know each other from forever, also. He and my brother went to the same school. We know each other very well, friends for life, and it’s easy to play with them because of that. I’m very happy to share music with those guys.

This is the longest tour I’ve ever done! Every day is a different city… a different audience. The experience has been beautiful – wonderful! We’re making new friends with people who listen to our music. That was my dream since I was a kid. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun as well.

You were trained as a classical pianist. How about your bandmates?

The same. In Cuba, in the schools of music, we learn classical music, like European composers. It’s the same for piano, bass, and drums. For drums, they don’t have teachers, they just treat it like classical percussion… marimba, snare, timpani… they learn how to drum like we learn how to play jazz in the streets. Our father [Ruy López-Nussa] is a drummer, and our uncle [Ernan López-Nussa] was a jazz piano player – they’re still playing!

What was your exposure to American jazz?

When I was young I remember that my father listened to a lot of Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Keith Jarrett. Every day I discover a new musician.

Who are some of the contemporary musicians you’re listening to now?

I’m listening to Christian Sands. He’s young guy who used to play with Christian McBride. And a guy from India whose name is hard for me to pronounce [Vijay Iyer?].

Are you working on any new projects?

I have a couple of projects that I’m working on for next year. One involves my father, brother and uncle – two pianos, two drums. This year, in May, we did a family concert in Washington at Kennedy Center. It was a beautiful experience! I’m looking forward to doing more with this project next year.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that we are looking forward to playing the Big Island, and really can’t wait to be there. We’re going to be there with all of our music and all of our love to share with the people of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Mahalo for your time, and we’re looking forward to your concert next week. Aloha.

Aloha, bye!

For tickets to next Saturday’s concert at the Kahilu Theatre, visit: http://kahilutheatre.org/Shows/Show-Listing

Please visit for Harold López-Nussa tour and music info: https://www.haroldlopeznussa.com

Un Día Cualquiera is now available on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon

Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.



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